Like the movie it's from, this soundtrack is an unusual beast. Paul Thomas
Anderson wrote and directed his film around songs by Aimee Mann, the former
'Til Tuesday leader whose solo career has become a kind of Sisyphean legend
in the music business, weathering label foldings and sales. Anderson's
career has been the opposite he's responsible for the well-received
"Hard Eight" and the Oscar-nominated "Boogie Nights" but it's not
hard to picture him as the ultimate Aimee Mann fan. Like Mann, Anderson is interested in the experiences of loss and regret, as well as the sometimes unhealthy ways people find to cope with such experiences. Anderson struck up a friendship with Mann just as he was beginning work on "Magnolia," and, as he says in the soundtrack's liner notes:
"For instance, in my original [emphasis his] ... screenplay, Claudia
... says, 'Now that I've met you, would you object to never seeing me
again?' I must come clean. I did not write that line. Aimee Mann wrote
that line as the opening of her song, 'Deathly,' and I wrote backwards
from that line ... It equals the heart and soul of 'Magnolia.' All stories
for the movie were written branching off from Claudia, so one could do
the math and realize that all stories come from Aimee's brain, not mine."
Mann may not agree the movie is more than three hours, after all
but it's true that her songs are more than just window dressing.
Indeed (and skip ahead to the next paragraph if you don't want a stylistic
twist of the movie spoiled), near the end of the film, each of the
characters sing a portion of Mann's "Wise Up" (RealAudio excerpt) to the camera.
Along with a cover of Harry Nilsson's familiar "One" (" ... is the loneliest
number") and "Momentum," an old B-side, Mann contributes
seven new songs to the soundtrack, a few of which will appear on her next
solo record. In general, the songs are more restrained than those on her
last record, I'm With Stupid, with fewer muscled riffs and more quiet
reflection. Of the new songs, "Save Me" (RealAudio excerpt) (one of the few that didn't exist as
a demo before Anderson wrote his screenplay) is the punchiest though
even it's holding back a bit, as if Mann were worried she'd draw too much
attention away from the actors on the screen.
Mann's way with a somber hook continues to be absolutely winning, though,
and songs such as "Save Me," "Deathly" and "Driving Sideways" (RealAudio excerpt)
will, after a few listens, no doubt stick in your head something fierce.
In addition, the soundtrack features a lovely excerpt from the score by
Mann's frequent collaborator Jon Brion (who also produced and arranged the
latest record by Anderson's current squeeze, Fiona Apple), plus the familiar
club hit "Dream," by Gabrielle, and two Supertramp songs you thought you'd